THE arrival of on-loan striker Freddie Sears was supposed to be the catalyst for Colchester’s play-off push.
But manager John Ward, who worked through the night brokering the deal which delivered West Ham’s turbo-charged youngster to the Weston Homes Community Stadium, credits a miserly defence rather than explosive attack for his team’s climb to within eight points of sixth place.
Colchester enter tonight’s re-arranged League One fixture with Sheffield United looking to record their fifth clean sheet in six games following Saturday’s goalless draw with Wycombe Wanderers.
United, of course, are likely to pose an altogether more potent threat than Gary Waddock’s side.
But, irrespective of the tactics the visitors adopt, Ward is adamant that Colchester are equipped to cope, saying: “We’ve worked very hard to keep those clean sheets. Against Wycombe there were lots of long throws coming into our penalty box.
“They were quite direct but we’ve shown we can cope with that. Once again, my back four have been very strong.”
United have plenty of reasons to curse the cold snap which gripped the country earlier this year. Colchester had failed to win three of their previous four games when a frozen pitch forced the postponement of the original meeting between these two clubs on February 4.
Scroll forward five weeks and Ward’s charges are now unbeaten in five.
Martin Rowlands, Colchester’s experienced midfielder, is set to miss United’s visit after suffering a groin strain at Adams Park but is confident they can flourish in his absence.
“On the back of the results we’ve had recently, I see no reason why we can’t get into the play-offs,” he said.
“If we can keep up this type of form then we can definitely make a push.”
Sears, a former England under-21 international, has yet to open his Colchester account.
But in Anthony Wordsworth, Ward definitely possesses a player capable of troubling the division’s leading clubs. A set-piece specialist, the 23-year-old seems destined to grace the Championship next season irrespective of Colchester’s fortunes between now and the end of the campaign.
“Anthony can play at a higher level,” Rowlands said.
Teams and ref
COLCHESTER (possible): Williams, Okuonghae, Eastman, Wilson, White, Izzet, Wordsworth, Bond, Gillespie, Henderson, Odejayi (4-4-2).
BLADES (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Hill, Williams, Williamson, Doyle, Hoskins, Quinn, Evans, Porter (4-4-2).
Trevor Kettle: Tonight’s game at the Weston Homes Community Stadium will be only his 13th appointment of the season. The Berkshire official has issued 58 cautions and four red cards since August. Issued 10 yellow cards and sent off one player when Middlesbrough beat Portsmouth earlier this month